While the diagnosis can be shocking, the good news is that diabetes can be managed. With the right tools, medication, information and attitude, diabetes does not have to hold you back. If you or someone you care about is struggling with the diagnosis, these tips from someone who has been there may help.
At the beginning, denial is normal. It is hard to be different. Dealing with diabetes is not easy. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that managing diabetes is an imperfect science, and everyone’s body is different. Still, the sooner you accept diabetes as part of your life and take steps to manage it, the more quickly you will start to feel normal again. Once you take control, you may actually live a healthier lifestyle than you did before!
Learn as much as you can. The key to managing diabetes lies in understanding how the pancreas works. You must take steps to keep your blood glucose steady, and to ‘think like a pancreas.’ Tactics depend on your situation, and whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Your management routine may involve blood glucose monitoring, lifestyle adjustment, medication in pill form, insulin injections, or insulin pump therapy. The tools and technologies available now have advanced tremendously over the years. However, the objective is the same – keeping blood glucose in the target range.
Many books and resources are available. Ask your health care provider about how you can learn more. The diabetes education centre in your local hospital should have a wealth of material. Try the resource centre at your local Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) office, if there is one in your area. If you are parenting a child with diabetes, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has many excellent resources and support for learning to manage diabetes.
Look on the Internet and visit websites recommended by the CDA (diabetes.ca) or the JDRF (jdrf.ca). Attend educational workshops and diabetes forums. Ask your pharmacist about additional resources that may be available to help you. The learning never ends!
It is essential to be proactive about understanding and managing your diabetes. Nobody else can do this for you, and nobody knows your body better than you do.
Success with managing blood glucose has a lot to do with choices you make every day – when buying groceries, at home, and in your daily life. Do you test your blood glucose regularly? Is some form of physical activity part of your daily routine? Do you fuel your body with nutritious foods? Are you reading labels at the supermarket? Are you taking your medication?
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, not knowing where to start. Doing what you can, every day, is the most important step. Each day, do a little bit more. Today, that might mean walking instead of taking the car to do errands. Choose an apple as a snack instead of a muffin or a donut. Reach out to a support group or to another diabetes peer to ask for help.
Whatever choices you make, know that the steps you make to take control of your diabetes all add up. You can be proud of who you become in the process. Healthy living begins with you – one step, one action, one choice at a time.
Amazing freedom and humour exists around diabetes for those who know what it is like to live with it every day. You learn from one another. You share tips on what works for you and what has not. Somehow, you listen differently in conversation with someone who shares the same challenges and frustrations.
Only another person with diabetes can truly grasp what it feels like to ‘go low,’ or how hard it is trying to keep blood glucose steady. Only those in the same situation can truly appreciate the joy and renewed hope you have after getting a great A1c result. The kinship is remarkable. You may be surprised by the strength and comfort that comes from knowing you are not alone.
If you want to reach out and make a difference, get involved in the diabetes community. Try volunteering. Join conversations online. The people you meet will enrich your life beyond measure. You may also find that being a part of something bigger than yourself brings new meaning and purpose to your life.
Your attitude is perhaps the most vital element to success with diabetes. Are you willing to give up excuses and do what it takes? Will you keep trying until you find a routine that works for you? Can you take responsibility for your own health? There is no one-size-fits-all solution to diabetes, so it is up to you to persist. It will not be perfect. Some days will be better than others. But the key is, when you fall – get up!
Any diagnosis is frightening, but how you handle it is entirely up to you. You can choose to be victimized by it, or use it to take you higher.
Diabetes could be the greatest wake-up call of your life. You may not be able to change the diagnosis, but you can decide who you are going to be in the face of it.
Be great. Be a role model. Be the best version of yourself, and hang in there!